US, N Korea make progress in nuclear talks

September 1st, 2007  

Topic: US, N Korea make progress in nuclear talks

Top negotiators from the United States and North Korea say they have made progress on the first day of talks meant to advance an international effort to end Pyongyang's nuclear programme.

US Assistant Secretary of State Chris Hill and his North Korean counterpart Kim Kye-gwan briefed reporters independently after meeting at the US mission in Geneva. The weekend session will conclude on Sunday at the North Korean mission.
"We had a fairly frank and in-depth discussion," Hill said, noting the talks spanned a range of topics including the terms under which the Stalinist state will disable and account for its nuclear facilities, as promised under a "six-party" deal.
"We do have a long way to go on many of these issues but I think we reached substantial understanding between the two of us on what needs to be accomplished in the months ahead," he said. "All in all it was a very substantive discussion today. One of the most substantive we have had."
Kim, speaking in Korean, said the first day of talks "went well," and had included discussions on removing North Korea from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism. That designation imposes a ban on arms-related sales and prevents North Korea, an economically vulnerable country that battles chronic food shortages, from receiving some aid.
The United States on Friday said it was prepared to offer "a significant food aid package" to help North Korea cope in the wake of August floods that killed at least 600 people, left 170,000 homeless and wiped out land for grains and maize.
Six-way negotiations between North and South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the United States have progressed slowly since September 2005, when North Korea had agreed in principle to abandon its nuclear programme in return for economic and diplomatic benefits.
Kim said the Saturday meeting with the United States, which precede a six-way plenary session next month, had focused on "the next steps" under that 2005 agreement, including how to implement a pledge Pyongyang made it February to disable its nuclear facilities and account for its full nuclear programme.
"I expect this meeting will have a fruitful result," the North Korean negotiator said of the two-day Geneva talks.
US officials believe that North Korea, which tested a nuclear device in October, may have enough nuclear fuel to make more than eight or nine atomic weapons. Washington has called for full details of Pyongyang's uranium enrichment activity in its declaration to the six parties.
Following the US meetings, North Korean negotiators will hold bilateral talks with Japan before six-way talks reconvene in Beijing in mid-September.

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